Hormones Not THE Problem: An Interview with Dr. John R. Lee

When John R. Lee, MD, was a young doctor with a family practice in northern California, he discovered the truth about women and hormones and breast cancer. That subject became his lifework and 30 years later, he is still speaking out to audiences of women around the country, maintaining a detailed and Web site (www.johnleemd.com), and writing voluminously on this country’s hormone “issue.”

Below are highlights from an 2002 interview with Dr. Lee on hormone replacement.

Q: First, we hear we need hormone replacement; then we hear, uh-oh, seems as though HRT increases the risk of cancer. What is this confusion all about?

Dr. Lee: There is nothing wrong with hormones. Hormones are perfectly normal, and we need them. They shouldn’t be thought of as a problem.

The “problem” is estrogen dominance. The problem is how we treat hormones. The problem is that we use hormones wrongly.

From 1910-1940 there was a big “problem” in the southeastern United States, mostly in Kentucky and Tennessee. A horrible disease called pellagra caused an entire generation of people to get very sick and die. They called it the disease of the 3 D’s: diarrhea, dementia and death. It took 30 years to figure out the cause: The diet in that area of the country was predominantly made up of corn. As a result, the people were deficient in niacin. The people were taught how to eat properly and the disease disappeared.

This is not unlike the situation we have now with hormones. There is a simple answer – something is missing and when that ingredient is added, the problem goes away. In this case, what women are deficient in is progesterone. When you add natural progesterone (key word being “natural”), the myriad of troublesome symptoms and risks goes away and your life becomes much healthier.

Q: How does a deficiency in progesterone affect us?

Dr. Lee: It allows for estrogen dominance, and once you have estrogen dominance, you are going to die of it. Half of Canadian and U.S. women are progesterone-deficient by age 35.

Conventional physicians believe that the fall in estrogen levels at menopause is responsible for menopausal symptoms and the increased risks of osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancer that is experienced by postmenopausal women. The facts are that estrone falls only about 40 percent and estradiol falls about 60 percent. The majority of postmenopausal women continue to make estrogen in sufficient quantity for all known estrogen benefits short of pregnancy.

Estrogen supplementation should be reserved only for those women who are truly estrogen deficient, which can only be measured accurately with a saliva test. And estrogen should never be given without progesterone.

Various illnesses such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and loss of libido have been blamed on estrogen deficiency simply because they tend to occur in postmenopausal women. The fact is that progesterone deficiency plays a larger role in these illnesses than estrogen. Osteoporosis, for instance, often starts at age 35 when estrogen levels are high, but progesterone levels have fallen. Even after menopause, most women are estrogen dominant because they still make estrogen and their progesterone has fallen to near zero.

Q: So, we’ve actually been treated contrary to what we need?

Dr. Lee: Not only do doctors not tell women about the dangers of estrogen dominance and how to avoid it, they make it worse by prescribing (synthetic) estrogen supplementation. Not that the doctors are doing this deliberately; they’re victims too. The medical schools in this country stopped teaching about natural hormones in 1961. They’ve only taught about synthetic hormones. Natural progesterone has been available since 1937.

Q: What should we be doing then?

Dr. Lee: First of all, do not take a synthetic progestin. Conventional physicians have erroneously believed that synthetic progestins are an adequate substitute for progesterone. The fact is that progesterone is a unique hormone with a full spectrum of benefits throughout the body and provides protection against all undesirable estrogen side effects, whereas none of the synthetic progestins do. Provera, for instance, increases the risk of coronary artery spasm whereas progesterone prevents it.

You do want to use a natural progesterone cream. There are many now on the market, not all of them equal in quality-specific progesterone. You need to read the label and look for one that contains 450-500 mg. of progesterone per ounce of cream. You should be able to get a 3-month supply of good cream for about $15 at a health food store or you can order it online. Also, compounding pharmacies can supply you with a good product.

I had a doctor call me a while back who has a practice in the Midwest. He said he has had 3500 women on progesterone for eight years and not one of them has had breast cancer. There are plenty of other doctors like this, too. This is so well known and so well documented now, we can say with confidence that at least 85 percent of all breast cancers could be eliminated.

Q: What if we have a doctor who is still thinking wrongly about hormones?

Dr. Lee: Find a different doctor.

The word “estrogens” describes a group of predominately female hormones: estradiol, estrone and estriol. Excessive estrogens can cause fluid retention, weight gain, migraines and overstimulation of the breasts, ovaries and uterus, leading to cancer. Insufficient estrogen levels can lead to hot flushes, vaginal dryness, rapid skin aging, urinary problems, excessive bone loss and possible acceleration of dementia. Most scientists agree that by-products of estrogen metabolism are the cause of both breast and prostate cancers.

Progesterone acts like a hormonal balancer, especially of estrogens. It enhances the beneficial effect of estrogens while preventing the problems associated with estrogen excess. Natural progesterone alleviates the symptoms of estrogen dominance and PMS and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, bloating, fatigue, irregular or heavy periods, irritability, gall bladder problems, osteoporosis pain, hair loss, and lumpy or sore breasts. Women have even gained bone density while taking natural progesterone.

Androgens include testosterone, DHEA and androstenedione. These hormones play an important role in tissue regeneration, especially the skin, bones and muscles. DHEA levels decline with age (in both men and women) and supplementation with DHEA has been shown to restore energy, improve immune function, lift depression and improve mental function.

Your hormone levels can only be accurately determined with a saliva test. If you are a do-it-yourselfer, Dr. Lee recommends the ZRT Laboratory at www.zrtlab.com, where you can order the test and have your results professionally interpreted.

Sources: John R. Lee, MD, and ZRT Laboratory.


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